We’ve been here on Orcas Island since Saturday and it’s rained pretty much nonstop. No biggie. It’s what the weather forecasters predicted.
So why am I thinking about the sunny Southwest? And why am I thinking about spring training just as it’s come to an end? After all, the regular Major League Baseball season starts tomorrow.
It’s because of Dad.
My father died a year ago today, six days after turning 91 years old. In the year since then, I’ve thought of him often – and always with appreciation for the man he was and the life he led.
A man who valued family and faith and an honest day’s work. A man who could build or fix anything. A man who encouraged me to pursue the college education he never had a chance to dream of for himself. A man who was proud of his service as a Navy veteran and who served his community in Silver City, New Mexico, the place where he and my stepmother Oralia chose to retire.
Time and again at his memorial service, I heard my dad described as kind and generous and, quite simply, as a good man.
Dad loved baseball. It was my favorite sport, too, growing up.
At his service, I told the story of how he bought me my first baseball bat – a heavily-taped, too-heavy-for-me Willie Keeler model that cost him 50 cents at a weekend flea market.
We played countless games of catch in our backyard, and watched the Giants and Dodgers go to battle on our black-and-white TV screen.
When I joined a Little League team, he volunteered to be an assistant coach. When I moved up to Pony League as a 13-year-old, he volunteered to be the manager. During my five seasons of organized baseball, I don’t remember him ever missing a practice or a game.
Several years after he retired, I made good on a vow to take my dad to spring training in Arizona. I flew from Portland to Tucson, drove 150 miles to his home in Silver City, picked him up and, the next morning, drove back 300 miles to Phoenix.
For three days and nights, we hung out together, taking in three ballgames in three stadiums scattered around the metro area. It was all I’d hoped for as a father-and-son experience. Sleep in, get breakfast, go to the ballgame, grab dinner, relax in our room, sleep and repeat.
I still remember seeing these teams with him:
- A’s vs. Cubs
- Giants vs. Padres
- Mariners vs. Royals
And I still remember how content he seemed, sitting in the cheap seats with a beer and a hotdog, enjoying his favorite sport alongside his adult son.
Now that he’s gone, I hope to take a walk around Eagle Lake today with Lori and keep him close in my thoughts.
Dad and Ora visited us here once at our island cabin, and we took them on a short walk on the Lake Trail. Though he had slowed down some, I know he appreciated the natural beauty of this place.
Yes, my father was a good man.
I miss you Dad. Love you always.
Your son, George